Saturday, May 10, 2014


"What We’re Listening to This Week" (CounterPunch):

May 9, 1926 was my dad’s birthday.  If he were still alive he’d be 88.  He died in 1982 at the age of 56.  My dad could be a real jerk, but I admired that he left the hard, hard racist South to join the Navy in 1940 when blacks were cooks and Filipinos were cabin boys. He served 20 years before retiring to Spartanburg, SC after which he worked another 20 years at Firestone Steel making car grills.  He was a proud union member in a time when being in the union in the South took guts.  A couple of week after he retired for the second time in his life he had a heart attack and drove off a bridge I have to cross or consciously think about not crossing every time I visit my mom who turns 80 on May 18th the day before Malcolm X’s birthday.
Now how does this relate to one of my albums of the week?  In ’82 I was in graduate school at Western Carolina University in Cullowhee up past Asheville and Maggie Valley, NC.  I mean it’s way up in the Blue Ridge Mountains.  I got the call my dad had died as I was listening to Roxy Music’s “Avalon.”    I drove a little over 100 miles down the mountains at night, crying, playing “More Than This” probably more times than I needed to hear.  A good friend’s father passed this week at 84.  He died at work at the family’s car repair shop.  He had just got off the phone talking to a customer and that was it.  This week I was thinking about my dad.
Roxy Music, “Avalon.”  1982, Polydor/E.G./Atco Records.
Back in December 2012 word went out that Stevie Wonder was to perform for The Friends of the Israel Defense Forces (FIDF) annual dinner.  Immediately fans and human rights activists condemned Wonder even considering performing for the apartheid state.  He backed out but Chaka Khan stepped in.
From the time that Rufus and Chaka Khan hit the scene I’ve been a fan of hers.  Yvette Marie Stevens has a great music & political history. Raised in Chicago’s South Side she and her sister Yvonne, who went under the stage name Taka Boom, formed the vocal group Shades of Black and joined the Black Panther Party after befriending Fred Hampton in 1967. Chaka was asked to replace the late Baby Huey of Baby Huey and the Babysitters after Huey’s death in 1970.   While with the Babysitter’s Chaka crossed paths with Curtis Mayfield whose independent Curtom Records produced the group.
I can’t count the number of times I saw her in concert with Rufus and as a solo act back in the day.  I stuck with Chaka thru her drug & booze days and even after she found Jesus. I have a special place in my music heart for most of Rufus’ 70s work.   But the IDF appearance is something I can’t get over. Chaka’s fan page is in my social media feed but I don’t hit share these days and I haven’t posted or shared many of her song since 2012.
Yet this week I found myself listening to “Rags to Rufus,” released in 1974 (my senior year in high school) , I still have it on vinyl although I recall it was one of the 8-track tapes I ordered from the Columbia House Record Club.  The trip down memory lane led me to “The Best of Rufus.”   Even so, I’m still maintaining a limited  boycott of Chaka.
Rufus, “Rag to Rufus.”  1974.  ABC Records.
Rufus, “The Best of Rufus.” 1982,  MCA Records.
And lastly, I always try to make some room for Curtis Mayfield every week.  This week  Curtis Mayfield, “Curtis Live.”  1971, Curtom Records.
“…And Mighty, Mighty Spade And Whitey,
Your Black And White Power,Is Gonna
Be A Crumbling Tower.And We Who Stand Divided,
So God Damn Undecided.
Give This Some Thought.
In Stupidness We’ve All Been Caught…”
Kevin Gray’s latest book, Killing Trayvons, (co-edited with JoAnn Wypijewski and Jeffrey St. Clair) will be published by CounterPunch this spring.

Chaka.  I hope Kevin can get beyond the issue.  I'm not insulting him for it.  In Bully Boy Bush's first occupation term, I marked Chaka off my list because she was a Bush supporter.  This lasted for about three years.

But who can ignore "Ain't Nobody"?

Outside of Rufus, there's Chaka's performance of Ashford & Simpson's "Clouds."

My least favorite of her hits was her number one hit "I Feel For You."

But I love "This Is My Life," "Through The Fire," Ashford & Simpson's "I'm Every Woman," "Tight Fit," "Love Of A Lifetime" and especially "On The Other Side of the World."

Just the way she sings the opening of the last one:

A penny has two faces
When one of them you have to choose
Between the two place
One must win and one must lose 
You say you have a sense of freedom 
Whenever you're away from him
Put your hand on your heart and tell me
That you never shed a tear

The way she sings the "put your hand on your heart and tell me" line always moves me.

I only met Chaka once.  I don't remember why I was at the party (I went with C.I. and some other people) but I do remember Chaka going on about "Hejira" -- the Joni Mitchell song -- quoting from it and talking about how much she loved the song.

"Where the wax rolls down like tears" was one of her favorite lines.

"This edition's playlist" (Third Estate Sunday Review):

1) Laura Nyro's Eli and the Thirteenth Confession. And you can refer to the following posts from last week about the album.   "Once It Was Alright Now (Farmer Joe)." "Lonely Women," "the confession," "Poverty Train," "Lu," "Timer," "Eli's Coming," "Emmie," "Sweet Blindness" and "Yes, I'm ready." 

2) M. Ward's A Wasteland Companion.

3) Stevie Wonder's Characters..

4) Carly Simon's No Secrets.

5) Richie Havens' Mixed Bag.

6) David Saw's Broken Down Figure.

7) Melanie's The Good Book.

8) David Rovics' Halliburton Boardroom Massacre.

9) Cat Power's The Greatest.

10) Roberta Flack's Oasis.

That is a great list.  "Oasis" remains an amazing song performed by Roberta Flack and, on that album, she also does Ashford & Simpson's "Uh-Uh-Oh-Oh-Look Out Here It Comes" and well as the very lovely ballad "And So It Goes."  On Carly's classic album, the song that always stands out for me is "Embrace Me You Child" followed quickly by "His Friends Are More Than Fond Of Robin" and "The Carter Family."  (Carly's classic album also contains the radio staple "Night Owl," the hit "The Right Thing To Do" and the monster number one "You're So Vain.")  Richie Haven's best vocal performance was always his singing on "Following."

I just love everything about that top ten album list.

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):
Friday, May 9, 2014.  Chaos and violence continue, Nouri tries to storm Falluja and fails, a US general is supposed to visit Iraq next week to talk about US forces and weapons, there's a call for the Iraqi elections to be declared fraudulent, and much more.

December 2011 saw the drawdown in Iraq.  The Pentagon used the term and only that term.  The media ran with "withdrawal."  All US troops never left.  Some were transitioned to Kuwait -- where thousands remain.  Some stayed in the country.  Ted Koppell was reporting on this -- for NBC News and NPR -- in December 2011 but it was apparently too much for most to handle.

While thousands remained inside Iraq -- those who would be 'trainers' on weapons purchases, CIA, FBI, Special-Ops, etc -- there's been movement on bringing more in -- in fact more have come but that's been too much for a whorish 'progressive' community to handle, cope with or even recognize.

Let's drop back to yesterday's snapshot for the following:

Gordon Lubold has long covered the Iraq War -- including for the Christian Science Monitor.  He has a post with disturbing news at Foreign Policy -- on the discussions of sending (more) US troops into Iraq:

But the nature of the fight the Maliki government confronts in western Iraq is such that officials say Baghdad is looking not only for better reconnaissance and surveillance capability, but also for more robust, lethal platforms. Iraq has been unwilling to accept American military personnel in the country in any operational form, but the willingness to revisit that policy appears now to be shifting. A spokesman for the Iraqi Embassy declined to comment on the issue of allowing American military personnel into the country to conduct drone operations, but acknowledged that the U.S. and Iraq share a "common enemy" in al Qaeda.
"Iraq's view is that all available tools must be utilized to defeat this threat, and we welcome America's help in enhancing the capabilities we are able to bring to bear," the spokesman said.  

You need to put that with other news because Lubold isn't smart enough to.  There's the fact that all US troops never left Iraq.  There's the fact that Barack sent a brigade of Special-Ops in during the fall of 2012. Tim Arango (New York Times) reported, "Iraq and the United States are negotiating an agreement that could result in the return of small units of American soldiers to Iraq on training missions. At the request of the Iraqi government, according to General Caslen, a unit of Army Special Operations soldiers was recently deployed to Iraq to advise on counterterrorism and help with intelligence."  And let's include the news from the April 25th snapshot:

Mark Hosenball, Warren Strobel, Phil Stewart, Ned Parker, Jason Szep and Ross Colvin (Reuters) report, "The United States is quietly expanding the number of intelligence officers in Iraq and holding urgent meetings in Washington and Baghdad to find ways to counter growing violence by Islamic militants, U.S. government sources said."  It was 1961 when US President John F. Kennedy sent 1364 "advisors" into Vietnam.  The next year, the number was just short of 10,000.  In 1963, the number hit 15,500.  You remember how this ends, right?

If we're all up to speed, at today's State Dept press briefing moderated by spokesperson Jen Psaki, the issue of Iraq came up.

QUESTION: Talking about the drones, Foreign Policy has reported today that Iraqi Government is actively seeking armed drones from the U.S. to combat al-Qaida in Anbar, and it would welcome American military drone operators back in the country to target those militants. Are you in discussions with the Iraqi about having American troops going back to Iraq with the drones?

MS. PSAKI: We are – we have seen, of course, this report. It does not reflect discussions we are having with the Government of Iraq. We are not in discussion with the Iraqi Government about the use of armed, unmanned aerial systems, nor are we considering such options. So it sounds like they need some better sources on that one.

QUESTION: Are you ready to discuss this option in case the Government of Iraq asked for?

MS. PSAKI: We’re not in discussion with it, so I’m not going to – about it, and I’m not going to predict or answer a hypothetical.

QUESTION: Is the U.S. discussing the return of any troops to Iraq to help with its ongoing security challenges?

MS. PSAKI: You’re familiar with the steps we’ve taken. That’s what we’re continuing to implement. As you know, we remain deeply concerned about the increased levels of violence in Iraq and the situation in Anbar. Our assistance has not been limited to the security sphere; we’ve worked on a consistent basis to develop a holistic approach and – with a focus on recruiting local tribal fighters, insuring resources are reaching areas that need them.
We also acknowledge that Iraq will not succeed unless its security forces are well supplied, trained, and equipped. And as you know in here, because we’ve talked about it a bit, we’ve also provided additional assistance, including the delivery of 300 Hellfire missiles, thousands of rounds of tank ammunition, helicopter-fired rockets, machine guns, grenades, flares, sniper rifles, M-16s and M-4 rifles. We also delivered additional Bell IA-407 helicopters late last year, and 10 ScanEagle surveillance platforms. So obviously, our assistance is expansive. I don’t have anything else to predict for you about the future, but that’s not something we’re considering, no.

QUESTION: Has the U.S. expedited the delivery of F-16 to Iraq?

MS. PSAKI: We have talked about that a little bit in here in the past. I don’t think I have any additional specific update for you today.

Who's doing this talking?  One person is said to be gearing up for talks.  Dar Addustour reports that US Gen Lloyd Austin is expected to visit Iraq next week and meet with Nouri to discuss weapons and US forces.

The article also notes Stuart Jones.  The White House has yet to announce US Ambassador to Iraq Robert S. Beecroft is going to become the new Ambassador to Egypt.  That has been reported and Laura Rozen was the first on it (weeks ago) and it's pretty much a given.  Stuart Jones is who Barack would like to replace Beecroft with.

Some in the Iraqi press are confused on this and I don't mean that as a slam.  There are many process issues I get wrong on Iraq and people kindly call and e-mail to let me know that.  US President Barack Obama may name Stuart Jones as the nominee for US Ambassador to Iraq.  That doesn't mean Jones becomes it.  Just as Nouri can only nominate people to serve in his Cabinet and requires Parliament to actually make someone a Cabinet Minister, Barack requires the US Senate's support.  They did not give it -- and would not -- to Brett McGurk which is why Barack had to find a different nominee (Beecroft).  All Iraq News offers a bio of Stuart Jones here.

Kitabat reports the proposed nomination comes a dangerous time for Iraq, when people speak of civil war as a real possibility in Iraq's near future and reminds that in their last meeting (November 1, 2013), Barack told Nouri al-Maliki that Iraq needed the participation of all the blocs in the decision-making process and that the attempts to marginalize the Sunnis and the Kurds needed to cease.

Wednesday, April 30th, Iraqis voted in parliamentary elections. "For the first time, the Iraqis utilized an electronic voting system," Iraq's Ambassador to the US Lukman Faily in a NCUSAR podcast.

He also bragged, "There was not a single security incident in Baghdad."  Why would there be?  Not only were the usual checkpoints maintained, additionals ones were added in Baghdad.  Traffic was banned.  Stores were forced to close.  Baghdad was a ghost town.

That there were no security incidents there?

Why are you bragging?

And why are you boasting of Baghdad?

Baghdad isn't Iraq.  It's just where the failed leaders hide out.

Across Iraq on election day?  Let's go Iraq Body Count:

Wednesday 30 April: 22 killed

Khanaqin: 3 killed by suicide bomber at polling station.
Baiji: 5 by suicide bombers.
Dibis: 4 by IEDs.
Falluja: 2 by shelling.
Muqdadiya: 3 by IED.
Udheim: 2 by IED.
Ramadi: 3 by mortars. 

Is Lukman the Ambassador of Baghdad or is he supposed to represent the country of Iraq?

If it's Iraq, he damn well should have -- but didn't -- note what happened throughout the country.

But, hey, he's a puppet from thug Nouri's party so it's not like we can expect anything but propaganda from him.

Ahead of the elections, Ayad Allawi Tweeted the following:

It's 10 days since the elections and people continue to wait for the results.  The Financial Times of London's correspondent Borzou Daragahi Tweeted the following this week:

election commission says 20% of ballots counted so far; at this rate, two weeks before fully counted 

Supposedly, the Independent High Electoral Commission will announce results May 25th (though they've noted the vast amount of complaints regarding irregularities and alleged violations could push the announcement back).  We're not interested in covering leaks or alleged leaks on vote totals.  The leaks of 2010?  They were false.  There's no reason to believe that the leaks four years later aren't false as well.

For those who just can't seem to let these illusions go, we'll note Ned Parker's Tweet from earlier this week (Ned Parker is now with Reuters):

  • False is also supposed to be rumors that Nouri al-Maliki has made a secret visit to Tehran to plead with Iranian officials for them to back him for a third term as Iraq's prime minister.  Trend News Agency quotes Iran's Deputy Foriegn Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian stating, "Mr. Maliki . . . is the highest-ranking official in Iraq.  His visits to the Islamic Republic of Iran have always been official and public.  No confidential visit has been made to Tehran by Mr. Maliki and any [future] visit will take place within official and legal framework."

    Kitabat reports that Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Nujaifi met with US Ambassador to Iraq Robert Stephen Beecroft today in Baghdad and complained about what is being seen as fraudlent ballot boxes.  The two are said to have discussed the large number of reported violations and that some voting centers did not open their doors.  (On the latter, there have been reports that voting centers in Sunni majority districts turned away all voters for over half the day -- often with the orders coming from Nouri's military -- and when this was reported to the IHEC, the centers that were supposed to open in the morning managed to open by mid-day. al-Nujaifi has been among those making that complaint publicly so it is likely that he would bring that issue up to Beecroft in a face-to-face.)  Struan Stevenson is the President of the European Parliament's Delegation for Relations with Iraq and he writes at The Hill about the elections:

    Now Ayad Allawi, leader of al Iraqiya, has said that 2 million ballot papers are missing, raising deep suspicions that major electoral fraud has taken place. News that all Iraqi police and army personnel were issued with two ballot papers each, one in their camps and the other sent to their homes, has compounded fears that the election was rigged.
    [. . .]
    The UN, US and EU should intervene and declare that this was not a free and fair election. They must not stand back and wash their hands of this affair. The people of Iraq have suffered enough. They need a democratic election that will provide them with a government that can restore freedom, democracy, justice, human rights and women's rights to Iraq. Four more years of corrupt dictatorship by Maliki will be in no-one's interest.

    May 2nd, Kurdish News Network carried accounts of fraud in the voting in northern Iraq.  We'll note journalist Muhammed A. Ahmed and elections observer Chya Khdir's comments:

    “I was attacked by a group of PUK supporters who were in a public uniform and stood in front of Gojar School polling station in Ranya. I had the official IHEC badge and was officially allowed to cover the voting process for Iraq Oil Report, a leading foreign organization that provides business, political and security news and analysis on Iraq‌." Muhammed A. Ahmed, a freelance journalist who covered the elections for Iraq Oil Report.
    “I took my camera out to take a picture of the school when I heard someone say, "take him; he is recording." Around 30 to 40 people came to me and violently grabbed my camera. One of them had a knife. Many of them were recognized PUK intelligence members and Peshmarga. Asaysh intervened. However, instead of detaining these people who were unlawfully stood there to threaten people, Asaysh detained me and deleted my photos.” Ahmed charged. 
    “We were taking food and drink to the staff and observers but the PUK forces hit my head with a revolver,” a Gorran‌'s observer who is badly wounded told KNNC correspondent on the scene. 
    “We as the observers of the political entities having been allowed officially by the IHEC, took food and drink to the staff and workers, but the PUK forces wearing casual clothes harassed and attacked us” Chya Khdir, observer of the election, told KNNC. 

    Iraq Times reports MP Hussein Sharifi, with the Sadr bloc, declared again today that the Sadr position is no on a third term as prime minister for Nouri al-Maliki.  State of Law is Nouri's coalition.  Iraq Times reports State of Law MP Ihsan al-Awadi insisted today that State of Law will not allow Speaker of Parliament al-Nujaifi to hold any position in the next government.

    Mohammed Sabah (Al Mada) reports that the leader of the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq Ammar al-Hakim met today with cleric and movement leader Moqtada al-Sadr and how they state that the prime minister is not shielded from the rule of law and that they oppose Nouri being given a third term.  They dismiss Nouri's claims of forming a government and note that no one bloc or party is expected to have won enough seats in the Parliament to form a government on its own so Iraq will need a power-sharing government and the prime minister will be selected by Shi'ites, by Sunnis and by Kurds.  Mushreq Abbas (Al-Monitor) explains that "the movements of Sadr and Hakim have been clearly trying, since the provincial elections in 2013, to find a balance among the Shiite forces’ alliance to face Maliki’s rise that is happening at their expense in the Shiite street."  And Hamza Mustafa (Asharq Al-Awsat) adds, "Both the Sadrist Movement and the ISCI were highly critical of the prime minister during his second term in office, particularly over his security record. They are now trying to block the coalition endorsing his premiership."

    Dar Addustour columnist As Sheikh notes today his belief that beyond this discussion and others, the need is for Iraq to build and become a nation of citizens.

    Imran Khan (Al Jazeera) offers today:

    By 2006 the SCIRI had morphed into ISCI and then Abdul-Aziz al-Hakim died ‎of cancer in 2009. Ammar al-Hakim took on the leadership of ISCI and a new chapter was born. Hakim the younger had seen the influence of the party wane and sought to reverse that trend. He reached out to all political players and began to change the image of ISCI and build alliances with other religious Shia groups, including traditional rivals like the Sadrists led by cleric Muqtada al-Sadr.
    In many ways Hakim has the perfect credentials. He has a religious law background and studied in seminaries in Iran where he became a Sayyid or cleric. It's a powerful title which gives him religious authority. He's also from a well-known family. Generations of Hakims have been involved in politics and religion.
    Hakim also has an almost mythical status among his supporters. ‎One Iraqi I asked, Mahmoud, who lives in Baghdad, said: "Hakim is a man who commands respect. He isn't a dirty politician, he is a man of God and he shows us the right path for Iraq. He is our bridge, our guiding light."
    Hakim's style of leadership is also winning him support in the international arena. One Western diplomatic source said: "Hakim is inclusive. He reached out to the youth, to women and that's impressed us. He isn't just talk."
    Others agree. I asked one European diplomat what her embassy thought of Hakim. "We love him" was her reply. Clearly it was meant as a light-hearted comment but in all seriousness it's very difficult to find open critics of Hakim who aren't political rivals or driven by sectarian rage.
    Hakim is a smart operator and under his leadership he has rebuilt ISCI into a very influential and powerful organisation. Before last month's elections he launched the citizen coalition with a simple and clear message that Iraq needs reform, both country-wide and throughout government. Many politicians flocked to his call and his bloc is very powerful. So then, why is this young, charismatic and well respected ‎man not the leader of Iraq?

    Nouri al-Maliki's four months of killing civilians in Falluja in what is collective punishment (a legally defined War Crime) gets far less attention.  Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) notes the assault today increased as Nouri attempts to 'retake' Falluja (when was Nouri ever in charge of Falluja?).  Tawfeeq notes, "About 700,000 people live in Falluja, a Sunni city in Anbar province west of Baghdad. More than 300 people, most of whom are civilians, have been killed in Falluja since the beginning of the year."  NINA notes the military's shelling of residential neighborhoods today left 7 civilians dead and thirteen more injured.  Wael Grace (Al Mada) speaks to Falluja General Hospital's Dr. Ahmed Chami who states 310 civilians have been killed and 1322 injured in the last months from the military shelling residential neighborhoods.

    Friday began with news of an assault.  Press TV reported, "Iraqi army and tribal fighters have launched an operation to retake militant-held areas in the city of Fallujah in Anbar province."  JC Finley (UPI) puts it this way, "Iraq's Ministry of Defense announced Friday that a full-scale military operation is underway in the embattled Sunni city of Fallujah."  How'd that turn out for Nouri?

  • Nouri always gets excited when he can wound or kill a Sunni child.

    So maybe the day's a success for that?

    Maybe.  But even Nouri may have a difficult time clutching to that alone.

    World Tribune reports, "The sources said ISIL led tribal forces in expelling the last bastion of Iraq Army troops and pro-government militias from the city, located in the Anbar province." Kitabat notes it was a failed military operation.

    Another failure for Nouri.  His list of failures continues to grow.  He began his assault on Anbar Province December 30th.  He kept avoiding Falluja.  His forces would surround it.  But actually entering it?

    Nouri was a coward.  But a smart coward because he couldn't win by storming the city.  As Kitabat notes, he tried to storm it today.  Nouri pretended for weeks and weeks that he was seeking other means.  He wasn't.  But he was too chicken to call for the attack until today.  And he was too chicken to go to Falluja.  Remember when he attacked Basra in 2008?  He went there. He said, as commander in chief, it was his duty to be there.

    But it's not his duty to be in Falluja for this attack?

    Well it's different.

    See, in 2008, he went to Basra with US forces to protect him.  That's not a possibility right now for Falluja (though maybe he and Gen Lloyd Austin can work out something with regards to that).

    In other violence, National Iraqi News Agency reports 4 Yezidis were shot dead in Karanah Village, an al-Qayyarah roadside bombing left 3 police members dead and two more injured, a Tammooz roadside bombing left three police members injured, a Tikrit roadside bombing and armed attack left 3 police members dead and one police officer injured, and Joint Operations Command announced they killed 2 suspects.

    Iraq War veteran Matt Maupin who was captured April 9, 2004. In a briefs roundup, March 30th, 2008, in a briefs round up of various news, the Washington Post noted:

    The father of a soldier listed as missing-captured in Iraq since 2004 says the military has informed him that his son's remains were found in Iraq.
    Keith Maupin said that an Army general told him Sunday that DNA was used to identify the remains of his son, Sgt. Keith Matthew Maupin, who went by "Matt."
    Matt Maupin was a 20-year-old private first class when he was captured April 9, 2004, after his fuel convoy was ambushed west of Baghdad. Arabic television network al-Jazeera aired a videotape a week later showing Maupin sitting on the floor surrounded by five masked men holding automatic rifles.

    Today, Amanda Lee Myers (AP) reports that a trial date has been set in Iraq for next Tuesday for an Iraqi whom Lt Col Alayne Conway states has "confessed to killing Maupin."  An unnamed Iraqi judge states the confession took place in 2009 and led to a conviction and sentence of death; however, the conviction's set aside or reversed as a result of some paperwork issue resulting in the need for a new trial.

    Central Illinois' 31 News (link is video and text) reports Matt's father Keith Maupin "is traveling to the Pentagon on Monday to learn more about the confession." Jessica Jerreat (Daily Mail) adds this will involve Keith Maupin speaking "to the [Iraqi] judge through a translator."

    Lastly, I like Hilda Solis, former Secretary of Labor.  That means when you're in hot water, we don't look the other way.  I like Sandy Berger and called him out over his stuffing classified documents into his pants to smuggle them out of a secure room.  Hilda has stepped down as Secretary of Labor and is now running to be elected a Los Angeles County supervisor.  She's also the subject of a criminal investigation.  Paul Pringle and Abby Sewell (Los Angeles Times) report:

    A letter sent last year to Solis by the U.S. Office of Special Counsel, an independent agency that investigates allegations of administrative violations of fundraising rules by federal officials, said it began an inquiry after receiving a complaint that Solis had solicited a donation from a Labor Department employee. According to the letter, the complaint alleged that in March 2012, Solis "left a voicemail message on a subordinate employee's government-issued Blackberry in which you asked the employee to contribute toward and assist with organizing others to attend a fundraiser for the President's reelection campaign."
    Solis has declined to comment on the investigation, but a spokesman reiterated Friday that she believes she has done nothing wrong.

    I hope Solis did nothing wrong.

    mushreq abbas

    Thursday, May 08, 2014

    Lois Lerner needs to be held in contempt

    McCarthyism was a witch hunt.  I have nothing but sympathy for anyone who pleaded the Fifth Amendment before that Committee.  The government had no right -- when they were demonizing Communists the way they now do Muslism (aka 'terrorists') -- to pry into people's lives.

    Careers were destroyed as a result.

    But Lois Lerner?

    She gets no sympathy.

    She deserves none.

    The House of Representatives voted to hold her in contempt today.

    This is from Speaker John Boehner's office:

    WASHINGTON, DC – House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) released the following statement after the House passed a resolution holding former IRS Exempt Organizations Division Director Lois Lerner in contempt of Congress, and a second resolution, passed with the support of 26 Democrats, calling on the Attorney General to appoint a special counsel to investigate the IRS’ targeting of conservative groups:
    “Our system of government relies on the sacred trust the American people place in the transparency and accountability of its institutions.  Lois Lerner first violated that trust when she played a key role in the IRS’ targeting of certain groups based on their political beliefs, as our investigations have uncovered.  She violated that trust again when she defied a congressional subpoena and refused to come clean about her participation in the scandal.  It’s time for Lois Lerner to account for her actions, and if she won’t then the full force of the law should be brought to bear.
    “The actions taken today also put the Obama administration on notice that the American people, and their representatives in the House, will not tolerate any more stonewalling.  Whether it’s the IRS scandal, Benghazi, Fast and Furious or any other area where the administration is hiding the facts, we will not stop until we get the full truth on behalf of the people we serve.”
    NOTE: Visit for a comprehensive list of reports, hearing transcripts, and other materials associated with the House’s ongoing investigation of the IRS targeting scandal.

    WASHINGTON, DC – House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) released the following statement after the House passed a resolution holding former IRS Exempt Organizations Division Director Lois Lerner in contempt of Congress, and a second resolution, passed with the support of 26 Democrats, calling on the Attorney General to appoint a special counsel to investigate the IRS’ targeting of conservative groups:
    “Our system of government relies on the sacred trust the American people place in the transparency and accountability of its institutions.  Lois Lerner first violated that trust when she played a key role in the IRS’ targeting of certain groups based on their political beliefs, as our investigations have uncovered.  She violated that trust again when she defied a congressional subpoena and refused to come clean about her participation in the scandal.  It’s time for Lois Lerner to account for her actions, and if she won’t then the full force of the law should be brought to bear.
    “The actions taken today also put the Obama administration on notice that the American people, and their representatives in the House, will not tolerate any more stonewalling.  Whether it’s the IRS scandal, Benghazi, Fast and Furious or any other area where the administration is hiding the facts, we will not stop until we get the full truth on behalf of the people we serve.”
    NOTE: Visit for a comprehensive list of reports, hearing transcripts, and other materials associated with the House’s ongoing investigation of the IRS targeting scandal.
    - See more at:
    I'm sorry, I agree with Boehner.

    For private citizens or even government workers to be asked if they were Communists?

    I support their right to refuse to testify.

    But for a government official, a high paid government official at that, to refuse to testify to Congress about what they did during work hours while the US taxpayer was paying their salary?

    Oh, hell no.

    If you're a government worker and you're asked questions about how you carried your job, you don't have the right to plead the Fifth on that.  No one's going to feel sorry for you.  No one's going to pretend you're being persecuted.

    You took the money, you damn well owe the American people an accounting of what you did on their dime.

    I'm not fan of John Boehner, to put it mildly.

    But I will applaud him and everyone else who voted to hold this person in contempt.

    WASHINGTON, DC – House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) released the following statement after the House passed a resolution holding former IRS Exempt Organizations Division Director Lois Lerner in contempt of Congress, and a second resolution, passed with the support of 26 Democrats, calling on the Attorney General to appoint a special counsel to investigate the IRS’ targeting of conservative groups:
    “Our system of government relies on the sacred trust the American people place in the transparency and accountability of its institutions.  Lois Lerner first violated that trust when she played a key role in the IRS’ targeting of certain groups based on their political beliefs, as our investigations have uncovered.  She violated that trust again when she defied a congressional subpoena and refused to come clean about her participation in the scandal.  It’s time for Lois Lerner to account for her actions, and if she won’t then the full force of the law should be brought to bear.
    “The actions taken today also put the Obama administration on notice that the American people, and their representatives in the House, will not tolerate any more stonewalling.  Whether it’s the IRS scandal, Benghazi, Fast and Furious or any other area where the administration is hiding the facts, we will not stop until we get the full truth on behalf of the people we serve.”
    NOTE: Visit for a comprehensive list of reports, hearing transcripts, and other materials associated with the House’s ongoing investigation of the IRS targeting scandal.
    - See more at:

    WASHINGTON, DC – House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) released the following statement after the House passed a resolution holding former IRS Exempt Organizations Division Director Lois Lerner in contempt of Congress, and a second resolution, passed with the support of 26 Democrats, calling on the Attorney General to appoint a special counsel to investigate the IRS’ targeting of conservative groups:
    “Our system of government relies on the sacred trust the American people place in the transparency and accountability of its institutions.  Lois Lerner first violated that trust when she played a key role in the IRS’ targeting of certain groups based on their political beliefs, as our investigations have uncovered.  She violated that trust again when she defied a congressional subpoena and refused to come clean about her participation in the scandal.  It’s time for Lois Lerner to account for her actions, and if she won’t then the full force of the law should be brought to bear.
    “The actions taken today also put the Obama administration on notice that the American people, and their representatives in the House, will not tolerate any more stonewalling.  Whether it’s the IRS scandal, Benghazi, Fast and Furious or any other area where the administration is hiding the facts, we will not stop until we get the full truth on behalf of the people we serve.”
    NOTE: Visit for a comprehensive list of reports, hearing transcripts, and other materials associated with the House’s ongoing investigation of the IRS targeting scandal.
    - See more at:

    "Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):
    Wednesday, May 7, 2014.  Chaos and violence continue, Nouri's killing of civilians in Falluja gets a little bit of attention, the US is back to training the Iraqi military in Jordan, the VA scandals continue, Chelsea Manning is prepared to sue for hormone therapy, Benghazi and much more.

    Starting with veterans issues, US House Rep Jeff Miller is the Chair of the House Veterans Affairs Committee.  His office issued the following:

    Chairman Miller Responds to Calls for VA Leadership Changes

    May 5, 2014

    WASHINGTON, D.C.— Following the American Legion’s calls for VA leadership changes, Chairman Miller released the following statement:
    “Make no mistake. There is a crisis of confidence with VA’s top leadership, and the American Legion’s calls for the resignations of the department’s top leaders should be sending shock waves through the White House. I have the utmost respect for Commander Dellinger’s opinion, and while I am going to wait until VA’s inspector general releases its report on the situation in Phoenix before deciding to call for any personnel changes, this much is clear: for nearly a year, we have been pleading with top department leaders and President Obama to take immediate steps to stop the growing pattern of preventable veteran deaths and hold accountable any and all VA employees who have allowed patients to slip through the cracks. In response, we’ve received disturbing silence from the White House and one excuse after another from VA. Right now, President Obama and Sec. Shinseki are faced with a stark choice: take immediate action to help us end the culture of complacency that is engulfing the Veterans Health Administration and compromising patient safety, or explain to the American people and America’s veterans why we should tolerate the status quo.” 

    – Rep. Jeff Miller, Chairman, House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs

    Chairman Miller letter to President Obama
    May 21, 2013
    What scandal are we talking about this time?  House Veterans Affairs Committee Chair Jeff Miller explained it an April 9th Committee hearing.  From that day's snapshot:

    US House Rep Jeff Miller:  I had hoped that during this hearing, we would be discussing the concrete changes VA had made -- changes that would show beyond a doubt that VA had placed the care our veterans receive first and that VA's commitment to holding any employee who did not completely embody a commitment to excellence through actions appropriate to the employee's failure accountable. Instead, today we are faced with even with more questions and ever mounting evidence that despite the myriad of patient safety incidents that have occurred at VA medical facilities in recent memory, the status quo is still firmly entrenched at VA.  On Monday -- shortly before this public hearing --  VA provided evidence that a total of twenty-three veterans have died due to delays in care at VA medical facilities.  Even with this latest disclosure as to where the deaths occurred, our Committee still don't know when they may have happened beyond VA's stated "most likely between 2010 and 2012."  These particular deaths resulted primarily from delays in gastrointestinal care.  Information on other preventable deaths due to consult delays remains unavailable.   Outside of the VA's consult review, this committee has reviewed at least eighteen preventable deaths that occurred because of mismanagement, improper infection control practices and a whole host -- a whole host --  of other maladies plaguing the VA health care system nationwide.  Yet, the department's stonewall has only grown higher and non-responsive. There is no excuse for these incidents to have ever occurred.  Congress has met every resource request that VA has made and I guarantee that if the department would have approached this committee at any time to tell us that help was needed to ensure that veterans received the care they required, every possible action would have been taken to ensure that VA could adequately care for our veterans.  This is the third full committee hearing that I have held on patient safety  and I am going to save our VA witnesses a little bit of time this morning by telling them what I don't want to hear.  I don't want to hear the rote repetition of  -- and I quote --  "the department is committed to providing the highest quality care, which our veterans have earned and that they deserve.  When incidents occur, we identify, mitigate, and prevent additional risks.  Prompt reviews prevent similar events in the future and hold those persons accountable."  Another thing I don’t want to hear is -- and, again, I quote from numerous VA statements, including a recent press statement --  "while any adverse incident for a veteran within our care is one too many," preventable deaths represent a small fraction of the veterans who seek care from VA every year.  What our veterans have truly "earned and deserve" is not more platitudes and, yes, one adverse incident is indeed one too many.  Look, we all recognize that no medical system is infallible no matter how high the quality standards might be.  But I think we all also recognize that the VA health care system is unique because it has a unique, special obligation not only to its patients -- the men and women who honorably serve our nation in uniform -- but also to  the hard-working taxpayers of the United States of America.
    Monday, the American Legion called for the resignation of VA Secretary Eric Shinseki over the latest VA scandal.  Yesterday, Senators John Cornyn and Jerry Moran jointed the call for Shinseki to step down. Matthew Daly (AP) reports Senator Richard Burr (Ranking Member on the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee) is also calling for Shinseki to step down.  Last month, Disabled American Veterans issued a call for accountability and quoted DAV Washington Headquarters Executive Director Garry Augustine stating, "We look forward to the results of these investigations, and if there is any evidence of wrongdoing or knowledgeable neglect, those responsible must be held to account." An early leader in the call for accountability, DAV issued the following today:

    DAV remains deeply concerned about allegations of secret waiting lists, falsification of medical appointment records and the destruction of official documents at Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) health care facilities in Phoenix, Arizona and Fort Collins, Colorado.
    DAV is first and foremost concerned about the health and safety of the 9 million enrolled veterans who rely on the VA for some or all of their health care needs, including most of our 1.2 million members.
    Veterans are a unique population with special needs; and it is vitally important that a safe, high-quality and accessible VA health care system be sustained to deliver such care.
    At a time of such serious allegations it is imperative that the VA respond quickly, forcefully and publicly to these reports and answer questions about whether similar problems are threatening other VA facilities or the system as a whole.
    Veterans have a right to know that they can receive quality medical care in a timely manner when they come to VA.
    I am calling on VA Secretary Eric Shinseki to answer not just the public allegations but also some fundamental questions about the entire VA health care system.
    The Secretary must quickly, comprehensively and publicly answer a number of questions that are necessary to give us, all veterans and the American public confidence that the VA health care system can and will provide safe, high-quality care at every facility in the nation.

    VA and its leadership at all levels must be held fully accountable for any failures or wrongdoing that may have occurred or be occurring. America’s heroes deserve nothing less.

    Yesterday, Concerned Veterans for America issued the following:

    Arlington, Va. ­– Concerned Veterans for America today released a new web video, “Demand Accountability,” as part of its ongoing VA Accountability project, which calls for reform of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and supports the VA Management Accountability Act—a bill that gives the Secretary of Veterans Affairs the power to hold managers accountable for their performance—both positively and negatively.
    “Demand Accountability,” which focuses on the VA healthcare system’s culture of dysfunction, highlights the recent news that 40 vets’ deaths have been linked to long wait times for care at the Phoenix VA and points out the large cash bonuses VA administrators around the country received even after overseeing hospitals where severe mismanagement exposed veterans to health risks and in some cases even led to their deaths. The video also calls on Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to support the VA Management Accountability Act.
    New Video: Demand Accountability
    Screen shot 2014-05-05 at 4.59.28 PM
    Click here to watch.
    Pete Hegseth, CEO of CVA, issued the following statement:
    “Just yesterday The American Legion called for the resignation of the Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki—action we fully support and called for at CVA a year ago. But replacing Shinseki won’t actually lead to reform unless the next VA secretary is empowered to hold managers and administrators accountable for their poor performance. That’s why the VA Management Accountability Act is so important; it equips VA leaders with the tools necessary for meaningful reform.”
     To schedule a TV interview Pete Hegseth, CEO of CVA, or other CVA experts, please email
    For more information, contact Emily Laird at 571.302.0973 or email
    Concerned Veterans for America is a non-partisan, non-profit, 501(c)(4) organization that advocates for policies that will preserve the freedom and liberty we and our families so proudly fought and sacrificed to defend.

    He said the secret list might have been a secret to the Veteran's Administration, but everyone on the Phoenix campus knew about it.
    Burmesch, who worked as a medical support assistant from November 2012 to September 2013, said most support staff just didn't know exactly how the list was being used.

    *A third​ and fourth whistleblower at the Phoenix Veterans Affairs Health Care System provided more details of the “secret list” allegedly used by managers to make it appear that wait times for veterans were shorter than they actually were. At least 40 veterans died while waiting for care in Phoenix, according to whistleblowers. Three top managers in Phoenix have been placed on leave while the VA’s inspector general investigates.
    *A VA scheduling clerk accused higher-ups in Austin, Texas, and San Antonio of manipulating data in an attempt to hide long wait times to see doctors there, the Austin American-Statesman reported on Wednesday. The employee told the U.S. Office of Special Counsel, which protects government whistleblowers, that he and others were “verbally directed by lead clerks, supervisors, and during training” to ensure that wait times at the Austin VA Outpatient Clinic and the North Central Federal Clinic in San Antonio were “as close to zero days as possible," according to the newspaper.

    Adam Klasfeld (Courthouse News) reports on Chelsea Manning who, having won the battle to change her name now is pursuing hormone therapy while she serves her 35 year sentence in a military prison.

    The story publicly begins Monday April 5, 2010, WikiLeaks released  military video of a July 12, 2007 assault in Iraq. 12 people were killed in the assault including two Reuters journalists Namie Noor-Eldeen and Saeed Chmagh. Monday June 7, 2010, the US military announced that they had arrested Bradley Manning and he stood accused of being the leaker of the video. Leila Fadel (Washington Post) reported in August 2010 that Manning had been charged -- "two charges under the Uniform Code of Military Justice. The first encompasses four counts of violating Army regulations by transferring classified information to his personal computer between November and May and adding unauthorized software to a classified computer system. The second comprises eight counts of violating federal laws governing the handling of classified information." In March, 2011, David S. Cloud (Los Angeles Times) reported that the military has added 22 additional counts to the charges including one that could be seen as "aiding the enemy" which could result in the death penalty if convicted. The Article 32 hearing took place in December. At the start of this year, there was an Article 32 hearing and, February 3rd, it was announced that the government would be moving forward with a court-martial. Bradley has yet to enter a plea. The court-martial was supposed to begin before the November 2012 election but it was postponed until after the election so that Barack wouldn't have to run on a record of his actual actions. adds, "A court martial is set to be held in June at Ford Meade in Maryland, with supporters treating him as a hero, but opponents describing him as a traitor."  February 28th, Bradley admitted he leaked to WikiLeaks.  And why.

    Bradley Manning:   In attempting to conduct counter-terrorism or CT and counter-insurgency COIN operations we became obsessed with capturing and killing human targets on lists and not being suspicious of and avoiding cooperation with our Host Nation partners, and ignoring the second and third order effects of accomplishing short-term goals and missions. I believe that if the general public, especially the American public, had access to the information contained within the CIDNE-I and CIDNE-A tables this could spark a domestic debate on the role of the military and our foreign policy in general as [missed word] as it related to Iraq and Afghanistan.
    I also believed the detailed analysis of the data over a long period of time by different sectors of society might cause society to reevaluate the need or even the desire to even to engage in counterterrorism and counterinsurgency operations that ignore the complex dynamics of the people living in the effected environment everyday.

    For truth telling, Brad was punished by the man who fears truth: Barack Obama.  A fraud, a fake, a 'brand,' anything but genuine, Barack is all marketing, all facade and, for that reason, must attack each and every whistle-blower.  David Delmar (Digital Journal) points out, "President Obama, while ostensibly a liberal advocate of transparency and openness in government, and of the 'courage' and 'patriotism' of whistleblowers who engage in conscientious leaks of classified information, is in reality something very different: a vindictive opponent of the free press willing to target journalists for doing their job and exposing government secrets to the public."

     Tuesday, July 30th, Bradley was convicted of all but two counts by Colonel Denise Lind, the military judge in his court-martial.  Susan Manning is Brad's mother.  Nic North (Daily Mail) quotes her stating, "Never give up hope, son.  I know I may never see you again, but I know you will be free one day.  I pray it is soon.  I love you, Bradley, and I always will." His aunt Sharon Staples states, "If anyone was going to get themselves arrested for leaking hundreds of thousands of secret documents and end up jail for it, it was going to be our Bradley.  He just seemed to have a burning sense of wanting to right any injustice from such a young age."    August 21st, Bradley was given a lengthy prison sentence. Following the verdict, Manning issued a press release which included, "I am Chelsea Manning.  I am a female."  She is appealing her conviction.  Now Chelsea is seeking hormone therapy.  Klasfeld notes, "Manning has offered to pay for her treatment to avoid litigation, and a media-generated controversy, even though an increasing number of federal and appellate courts have affirmed that she is entitled to get such care for free."

    Last Wednesday, Iraqis voted in parliamentary elections.  And it briefly got some attention from the western media.  James Denselow (Majalla) observes:

    Iraq has become a family secret, the hideously malformed child hidden away in the attic, whose presence is only acknowledged on rare and awkward occasions. In the UK this is particularly true with the Chilcot Inquiry, ongoing since 2009, testing the patience of the prime minister as to when it will reveal its findings. Iraq’s state of permanent chaos, of market bombings and assassinations, has turned it into a toxic issue which politicians avoid, one which bores the public and which the media struggles to contain into a coherent narrative.

    Along with having elected Members of Parliament, there is the hope that this time (third time's the charm?), Iraqis might elect their own prime minister.  In 2006, the Bully Boy Bush administration imposed know-nothing Nouri al-Maliki as prime minister (when the pick of Iraqis was Ibrahim al-Jafaari) and, in 2010, when Nouri's State of Law lost to Ayad Allawi's Iraqiya, the Barack Obama administration imposed Nouri for a second term (the US brokered The Erbil Agreement -- a legal contract which circumvented the will of the people, the Iraqi Constitution and basic concepts of democracy -- what a proud moment for Barack). The Economist sees the scramble for the post of prime minister as a scramble for Shi'ite alliances:

    Many Shia voters in Iraq still look to the Marjaya, the establishment of senior religious scholars in the holy city of Najaf, to give them guidance when casting their ballots. Mr Maliki has brought the security and intelligence services under his control, has eroded the power of parliament and replaced military commanders with people loyal to him. But he has been less successful in creating unity among his fellow Shias—the overwhelming concern of the Marjaya. 
    During the campaign Ali al-Sistani, the 83-year-old grand ayatollah whose influence was pre-eminent in the early years after the American invasion, was silent, but other prominent clergymen in Najaf, including one of Mr Sistani’s closest confidants, called for change. “Every Friday [when they give sermons] they have been bashing the government for not delivering services, accusing them of corruption and for lacking principles and good governance,” says Bakhtiar Amin, a human-rights minister in Iraq’s first government after the American invasion of 2003. “The question is how much the Shias are following their spiritual leaders.”

       Cihan observes today:

    The real competition is between incumbent Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and his rivals, namely Sunnis, Kurds and Shiites who believe he will not serve for a third time. There are secondary rivalries between pious Shiites and secularists and between moderate Sunnis and radicals/insurgents.
    The Shiites are split three ways between al-Maliki's State of Law Coalition, Muqtada al-Sadr's Sadrist movement and the Citizen Coalition of Shiite cleric Ammar al-Hakim's Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq.
    The Sunnis in turn are split between parliamentary speaker Osama al-Nujaifi's Muttahidoon list and Deputy Prime Minister Saleh al-Mutlaq's al-Arabiya list. Given this political split, no single bloc is expected to win a majority in the new parliament.

    Ammar al-Hakim was busy today.  All Iraq News notes he met with the Swedish Ambassador to Iraq and he met with Karar al-Khafaji who heads the political commission of cleric and movement leader Moqtada al-Sadr's coaltion.  NINA notes that in addition to meeting with Jorgen Lindstrom (Swedish Ambassador), Ammar also met with British Ambassador to Iraq Simon Paul  Collins today.

    On the subject of the Sadr bloc, Monday's snapshot included:

    On Saturday, the Independent High Electoral Commission declared their intention to announce the results May 25th. Today, Ghassan Hamid and Mohammed Shafiq (Alsumaria) report the IHEC has stated the large number of complaints alleging violations during the vote will delay the release of the votes.  Violations would be one way to word what State of Law MP Mahmoud al-Hassan is accused of.  All Iraq News notes MP Hussein al-Shirifi, of Moqtada al-Sadr's bloc, is calling for the IHEC to toss al-Hassan's eligibility as a result of al-Hassan's alleged voter intimidation to scare up votes for Nouri al-Maliki's State of Law coalition.

    Alsumaria reports today that MP Hussein al-Sharifi is stating that a fine for Mahmoud Hassan would not be justice since the State of Law MP was extorting and threatening Iraqi people, specifically those in the slums of Baghdad, that this is recorded on video and that this was broadcast on television so a fine is not enough.

    Amjad Salah and Mohammad Shafiq (Alsumaria) report MP Hassoun Fatlawi who serves on Parliament's Legal Committee declared today that Nouri's term will expire June 14th

    And Nouri?

    He gave his weekly speech today.  Alsumaria notes he used it to savage the Parliament and Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Nujaifi as he insisted that they accomplished nothing.

    Nouri al-Maliki will have completed his second term in one month and seven days and he will have done so without ever finding three individuals to head the security ministries -- his entire term he has had, for example, no Minister of Defense.  For four years, Iraq's been without a Minister of Defense -- as violence has increased.  He's in no position to call anyone else a failure.

    In fairness to Nouri, he is accomplishing something currently -- increasing his number of War Crimes.  As he continues to use collective punishment (legally defined by the United Nations and the United States as a War Crime) on the civilians of Falluja, he kills and he wounds.  Alsumaria reports that today's assault on Falluja's residential neighborhoods by Nouri's military bombings left 7 civilians dead and forty-five injured.  Suleiman al-Qubeisi (Anadaolu Agency) reports on another shelling today which left 9 dead and numerous people injured -- the nine dead included 2 children.  AFP notes today, "Security forces have periodically clashed with insurgents in areas around Fallujah, but the main source of casualties in the city has been persistent shellfire that has especially targeted southern neighbourhoods." Erin Evers (Human Rights Watch) puts a human face on these civilians killed by military shelling:

    His call yesterday was not the usual update. He told me that his oldest brother, Ammar, who had also fled Fallujah, recently returned to the city with his wife and daughter when they ran out of money and food. Yesterday, two days after arriving, a mortar strike killed him. He was riding his bike to buy groceries, his brother told me. 
    [. . .]

    Ammar’s death is a stark reminder that horrible abuses by some armed groups, which may amount to crimes against humanity, do not allow the government to attack ordinary people.

    Explaining that the US government is back to training the Iraqi military in Jordan, Missy Ryan (Reuters) notes, "Washington's response to surging violence and sectarian tensions in Iraq has been limited by a reluctance to further empower Maliki, who critics say has bullied opponents, and a desire to ensure that U.S. soldiers do not become embroiled again in a Middle Eastern conflict."

    Monday, Aswat al-Iraq noted the Kurds were insisting that holding the presidency of Iraq was actually a "right."  It's not.  It's been a custom. There's nothing in the Iraqi Constitution that guarantees the president will be a Kurd. (Only that he or she will be an Iraqi citizen by birth, born of Iraqi parents.)

    The current Iraqi president is Jalal Talabani.  The president in self-exile.  December 2012,  Jalal Talabani suffered a stroke.   The incident took place late on December 17, 2012 following Jalal's argument with Iraq's prime minister and chief thug Nouri al-Maliki (see the December 18, 2012 snapshot).  Jalal was admitted to Baghdad's Medical Center Hospital.    Thursday, December 20, 2012, he was moved to Germany.  He remains in Germany currently.  Per the Constitution, he should have been relieved of his duties by February 1, 2013.  He's not performing his duties and he hasn't been.  This does not help the Kurds make a case but they are trying to.

    Massoud Barzani is the KRG President (and he's back in Iraq after his visit to Jordan).  Barzani heads the Kurdistan Democratic Party and NINA notes that they are saying that a Kurd must be president and quotes KDP member Abdul Salam Berwari stating, "The entitlement of the presidency is exclusive for Kurds will not renounce it in any way."  The Patriotic Union of Kurdistan is headed by Jalal.  Alsumaria reports that PUK member Burhan Faraj states that the Kurds are discussing now who should be president.

    From yesterday's snapshot:

     Aswat al-Iraq reports, "The Kurdish Union Party nominated today the special physician of President Jalal Talabani and the Governor of Kirkuk to assume Iraqi presidency office": Dr. Najm al-Deen Kareem.
    The who did what?
    The Kurdish Union Party.  A minor player in the KRG (and one that's been angling cabinet positions in the KRG's government).  The two dominant parties in the KRG now are the KDP and Goran.  I don't see why they would back a minor party -- especially one closely associated with the PUK -- Jalal Talabani's party.

    Today, Omar al-Jaffal (Al-Monitor) reports:

    The PUK nominated Kirkuk governor and Talabani’s personal physician, Najmeddine Karim. Meanwhile, the Movement for Change (Gorran) and the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) have remained silent, at least until the election results are final.
    Kamal Raouf, a political analyst and author, told Al-Monitor, "The two parties that remained silent are waiting for the election’s results," adding, "Karim is not an acceptable candidate for Barzani’s KDP." 
    Raouf said, "The debate over the presidency of the republic between the Kurdish parties will be limited to the PUK and the Movement for Change," pronouncing it likely that "the [next] president will be a member of the PUK."
    "The figures who can be accepted by everyone include Barham Salih, who previously served as prime minister of the Kurdistan Regional Government, and Adnan Mufti, a leader of the PUK," he said.

    al-Jaffal also notes that the Sunnis are expressing interest in the post with some saying it should go to Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Nujaifi.

    Back to the ongoing violence, National Iraqi News Agency reports a Hit suicide bomber took his own life and the lives of 4 Iraqi soldiers and 1 federal police and injured six more, 1 person was shot dead in Tarmiyah, the Ministry of the Interior announced 1 suspect was killed in Salah al-Din, the Joint Operations Command announced they killed 12 suspects, 1 agronomist was shot dead in Mosul, police forces killed 1 suspect west of Mosul, a Mosul car bombing left four people injured, an armed clash in Falluja left 4 rebels dead, and 2 corpses were discovered south of Kirkuk.  Alsumaria adds the corpses had gunshot wounds, were blindfolded and bound.

    Meanwhile, it's been noted that US Ambassador Beecroft has issued no statement on the elections.  (They took place April 30th so, no, his April 23rd a week before the elections does not count.)

    Reuters notes today, "The Obama administration plans to nominate its ambassador in Iraq to be the new U.S. envoy in Cairo, U.S. officials said on Wednesday, as U.S.-Egyptian ties remain strained following the Egyptian army's ouster of an elected president last year." Dropping back to the April 23rd snapshot:

    On the topic of Stephen Beecroft, Laura Rozen (Backchannel) reports the word is Beecroft will be nominated to be the US Ambassador to Egypt shortly.
    That would be a deeply stupid move.  So it's probably going to happen.  If it does, we'll go into how stupid it is.  Until then, we'll just note the rumor.

    I didn't doubt Laura Rozen, she has strong sources in the State Dept.  I don't doubt Reuters but we'll wait for a real statement and then we'll go into how stupid this is.  (We also don't have space or time today for this topic.)

    Moving over to the topic of Benghazi.  Four Americans were killed there September 11, 2012: Sean Smith, Tyrone Woods, Glen Doherty and US Ambassador Chris Stevens.  Congress is pulling together a select committee to investigate.  US House Rep Trey Gowdy has been named to head it.

    Gowdy was a guest yesterday on The Charlie Rose Show (PBS -- link is video).  In this community, Ruth has covered Benghazi more than anyone.  This has become one of her chief topics.  Last night, she praised Charlie for the interview he conducted.  This is an excerpt of the interview.

    Charlie Rose:  So tell me how you see this?  Is a new select committee necessary?  Why did you accept the Speaker's invitation?  [Speaker of the House John Boehner.]  What do you think you can accomplish?

    US House Rep Trey Gowdy:  I think it's necessary, Charlie, because if you consider the three different categories with respect to Benghazi, number one, why was the facility not secure leading up to 9-11-2012 during the siege itself?  Did we have assets able to respond?  And if not, why not with the significance of that date?  And thirdly, was the government honest with the citizenry in the aftermath with respect to the explanation?  I'm sure the Speaker picked me in part because I used to be a prosecutor.  That would be my guess. I'm-I'm much more interested in-in pursuing the facts than I am political theater.  And I think it can be done that way.  I hope my Democratic colleagues will-will participate in the select committee.  Many of them are former prosecutors or former attorneys who ask very good questions.  I had a guy who stopped me in the airport today just-just at Reagan I was coming to the Capitol.  He said I'm a former military guy and I want you to get to the bottom of what happened in Benghazi.  Now I have no idea what his politics are.  He may have no politics.  But that's a pretty common refrain -- at least back in South Caroline and as I travel people still think that there are unanswered questions. 

    Charlie Rose:  But it seems to me -- and you can correct me or not -- and I'm asking this as a question, it's really driven by Republicans have this belief and they have not been dissuaded that somehow the White House in a political campaign year has not been forthcoming and you question exactly why there was some confusion about the nature of the attack?  That, in the end, that's the issue?

    US House Rep Trey Gowdy: I think that you can certainly fashion an argument that that's the most important of three issues because that gets at whether or not people can trust or rely upon what government tells 'em.  And it's difficult, Charlie, to go back to 2012.  But if you and I can go back there in our minds, we're in the throes of a general election and one of the narratives is that al Qaeda is on the run, Osama bin Laden is dead, GM is alive.  I think that Ben Rhodes memo was probably the straw that broke the camel's back because that memo made it really clear that we're going to blame an internet video and not a broader policy failure in Libya.  Charlie, I'm an old DA.  If-if you really think it was the video, then site me all the evidence.  That's the mantra that we hear, that 'We used the best evidence that we had at the time, that there wasn't an intent to deceive, we were just mistaken.'  Think back to the five Susan Rice talking shows.  Well then give me all the evidence that buttressed what you said at the time because there is none. 

    Charlie Rose:  Well, so you don't believe anybody from the CIA who says, 'You know, at the earliest beginnings, we were not sure.  We, in Washington at the CIA, were not sure exactly what was going on. We later, you know, looked at all the evidence but that was our state of mind.'  You don't believe that? 

    US House Rep Trey Gowdy:  No.  No.  I cannot tell you what someone's state of mind was.  What I can tell you is that on September the 12th [2012], there was an e-mail from Beth Jones kind of memoralizing a conversation she had with the Libyan Ambassador.  And she was very clear -- this was Ansar Al Sharia.  This was an extremist organization.  With respect to Mr. Morrell. every change he made to the talking points, in my judgment, sanitized them -- to go from the word "terrorist" to "extremist," to go from the word "attack" to "demonstration." And most significantly, take out any reference of the prior episodes of violence in Libya because -- and his own testimony was -- he didn't want to embarrass the State Dept.  I'm not interested in embarrassing or not embarrassing anyone.  I think it is fair to ask, given on that date what had been happening in Libya prior to that, why were we caught so flat-footed by what turned out not to be a protest but an organized attack on our facility?

    Charlie Rose:  Is it -- Listen to what Mike Morrell said to me  on this program in a conversation about him and the CIA but also about Benghazi.  Here it is, you can hear it.

    Archived Mike Morrell:   In the entire process that I talked about, the White House suggested three changes.  Three changes.  All of them were editorial. None of them were substantive.  So the White House had no substantive input into the talking points. There have been allegations, Charlie, that the White House wrote the talking points.  There have been allegations that --

    Archived Charlie Rose: That's what they mean by cooking the books --

    Archived Mike Morrell:  Cooking the books. 

    Archived Charlie Rose: -- is the expression used.

    Archived Mike Morrell:  There-there have been allegations that the White House made significant changes to the talking points, that's not true.  There have been allegations that the White House told me to make changes to the talking points, not true.  None of that's true. None of it.

    Charlie Rose: So when you listen to Mike Morrell, former Deputy Director of the CIA and acting director say that, what do you think?

    US House Rep Trey Gowdy: Well the first question I would ask Mr. Morrell is then where did Susan Rice come up with her video narrative?  Because even the CIA was not pushing that narrative.  If you'll think back to Mr. Morrell's testimony before Intel just last month, he said he was shocked when she said on the five Sunday morning talk shows that this was a spontaneous reaction to a video because his intel, his information was, 'Wait a minute no one was telling us that this was related to the video.' Hillary Clinton said it was related to the video.  The president condemned the video.  So I cannot tell you what Mr. Morell believed on September 12, [2012].  I can tell you this: Someone changed the talking points and they changed them in a light most calculated to sanitize them and cast the administration in the best light.  Is there a benign explanation for that? Of course, there could be.

    Charlie Rose:  Okay.

    US House Rep Trey Gowdy: Is there a more nefarious explanation?  Of course, there could be. 

    Still on Benghazi, Media critic David Zuraqik (Z on TV, Baltimore Sun) argues that the way you see Benghazi may come down to whether or not you served in the military:

    Despite the sneers of MSNBC hosts and the disdainful manner of White House Press Secretary Jay Carney, Benghazi matters.  And it matters in ways we don't yet even understand -- deep, fractious ways that reveal a major front in the culture war almost no one seems to understand or want to even talk about:
    [. . .]
    No one who has been in the military would ever say, "What difference . . . does it make?" as Hillary Clinton did of the details of Benghazi.
    No one who has been in the military -- especially in battle -- would ever think for one second it was OK not to try something, no matter how desperate, to get aid to the Americans in the Benghazi compound.
    But for those who did not serve, such responses seem perfectly OK.

    missy ryan